Warm Springs District Ranger Patrick Sheridan Dedication To Community Goes Beyond Work With The US Forest Service
Warm Springs, Va – In Bath and Highland Counties, Patrick Sheridan oversees natural resource operations and forest management in his job as District Ranger for the US Forest Service. He oversees two districts, the Warm Springs and the James River Ranger Districts. So he also works in Alleghany County and parts of Craig, Botetourt and Rockbridge Counties. But another aspect of Sheridan’s job involves work far from this area. He’s part of a National Incident Management Team, one of seventeen across the country.
“Typically in the past they’ve all been fires, but in the last ten years these Incident Management Teams have been asked to respond to a larger variety of types of incidents,” says Sheridan. “So we’ve gone to a flood disaster where there were 22 people killed in Arkansas two years ago. We have Incident Management Teams that respond almost annually to large hurricanes in a support and relief role. We had some of our Incident Management Teams respond to New York City on September 11 during the fallout of that terrorist attack.”
Incident Management Teams are preformed and the members study together and work together. And they are on call. Sheridan has to be ready to go at a moment’s notice and when he goes, he doesn’t know how long he’ll be away.
“2011 was one of the busier years in terms of being gone,” says Sheridan. “We were gone on, I think, a total of six incidents for a total of almost a hundred days. That was far and away our busiest year.”
Sheridan is a member of a southern area team with about 45 members. It’s a Type 1 team, which means they handle incidents with the highest level of complexity. The teams are called up to respond by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And some assignments are very tough.
“Clearly the assignments where there’s loss of life or a lot of tragedy that the public’s dealing with in terms of loss of property,” says Sheridan. “So most the difficult ones for me have been the flood in Arkansas and working on the hurricane recovery where there’s so much devastation and so much personal loss. That’s difficult to deal with”
Sheridan has maintained his qualifications in fire management over his years with the Forest Service. With that training, he was recruited for an Incident Management Team, but passed on it for a number of years. He then decided to do it, because there were shortages and he felt a responsibility to try and keep some of the teams going. He’s been a part of a team for five years now.
“Some of the most rewarding things are working on that Type 1 team are working with the local folks, no matter where you go whether it’s in Texas or Florida or Washington state or no matter where,” says Sheridan. “What’s really gratifying is working with good folks, good Americans, wherever you are. It sounds kind of corny, but the communities, the civic pride, the responsibility that people have, is extremely impressive. It makes you feel good to be where you are in the country we’re in.”
Sheridan has worked on the George Washington National Forest at Warm Springs since 1999. Before that he was the District Ranger on the Greenbrier Ranger District in Bartow West Virginia on the Monongahela National Forest.